By Dan Strumpf & Ken Thomas, Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON (AP) — Toyota Motor Corp. is temporarily halting sales of the 2010 Lexus GX 460 after Consumer Reports issued a rare "Don't Buy" warning amid concerns the large SUV has handling problems that could cause it to roll over during sharp turns.
The Japanese automaker said Tuesday it had asked dealers to temporarily suspend sales of the SUV while it conducts its own tests on the GX 460.
"We are taking the situation with the GX 460 very seriously and are determined to identify and correct the issue Consumer Reports identified," said Mark Templin, Lexus vice president and general manager.
The decision to stop selling the SUV is the latest blow to Toyota's tarnished safety reputation after the recall of millions of cars and trucks over gas pedals that are too slow to retract or that can become stuck under floor mats. The GX 460 is not covered by the pedal recalls.
Toyota said about 6,000 have been sold since the vehicle went on sale in late December.
Consumer Reports is closely read by many car buyers before choosing a new car or truck. In January, it pulled its "recommended" rating on eight vehicles recalled by the automaker due to faulty gas pedals.
The magazine said the Lexus problem occurred during tests on its track. In a standard test, the driver approached a turn unusually fast, then released the accelerator pedal to simulate the response of an alarmed driver. This caused the rear of the vehicle to slide outward.
In normal cases, the electronic stability control should quickly correct the loss of control and keep the SUV on its intended path. But with the GX 460, the stability control took too long to adjust, which could cause a rollover accident if one of the sliding wheels were to strike the curb or another obstacle, said Gabriel Shenhar, Consumer Reports' senior auto test engineer who was one of four testers who experienced the problem.